Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, July 3 newspaper on Page A2.

Note: The Courier is featuring each principal throughout the Vinton County Local School District this summer to hear about the past school year and report updates for the year ahead.

ALLENSVILLE — Kevin Waddell looked back on his last year in education fondly.

He walked the halls as principal to Vinton County High School for years, but his time in the school district ended at West Elementary, a place where he received 50 to 60 hugs a day.

“It surely wasn’t the transition I anticipated,” Waddell said. “But it was so special. I had more time to be with the kids.”

It turned out to be an eventful final year for Waddell, too. West Elementary had a slew of events and achievements throughout the 2018-2019 school year.

To start, West Elementary was recognized as a High Progress School of Honor. West was one of 66 schools across the state of Ohio to receive that honor, which came because of the school’s high marks on the state report card in the “Progress” and “Gap Closing” components.

Waddell noted how well he thought West Elementary’s teachers worked together and with their students.

“They do a great job as far as preparing the kids,” he said.

Teachers had creative ways of teaching their students. For example, students researched famous historical figures, dressed as them and presented their findings to staff, parents and other students during their “wax museum.” The event, held for its second year, was coordinated by teachers Debbie Sifford and Mandy Albright. Famous figures “in attendance” were Betsy Ross, Milton Hershey, Jane Goodall, Benjamin Franklin, Squanto and Caroline Ingalls.

Representatives of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources visited West Elementary in December to announce the largest-ever award given to a school district for the “Trees to Textbooks” program. The total was $500,270.68. This money went toward the purchase of textbooks in throughout the school district, and West Elementary students got to hold the giant check and greet Smokey Bear.

Instead of exchanging cartoon-clad cards and candies for Valentine’s Day, some students at West Elementary received “Glow-entines.” These were a product of a West Elementary fourth grade science class instructed by Teresa Merckle. They were made as a part of the EntreEd program.

West Elementary fifth grade student Brynlee Hutt outlasted 38 other competitors to win the Vinton County district-wide spelling bee at Central Elementary in February. Her winning word was “livelihood.”

Students at West Elementary also raised nearly $2,400 this year as part of the school’s Pennies for Patients program. Pennies for Patients is a campaign that raises funds for blood cancer research.

To raise money, students collected change from their families and friends. Multiple contests were also held for students throughout the campaign. Lorrie Hamon’s classroom collected the most money during the campaign this year, raising $350 toward the campaign.

Looking ahead academically, Waddell said he knows teachers will continue to emphasize literacy skills at the kindergarten and first grade levels.

“It’s got to happen there,” he said.

Of course, the school will welcome a new face come fall. With Waddell’s departure, Brian Thompson will become the school’s new principal.

Thompson graduated from Vinton County High School and continued his education at Ohio University. He started off as what he described as “a traveling teacher” at Vinton County Middle School in 2003. He moved from classroom to classroom in the building, and subjects he taught were science, math, social studies and even physical education.

“I’m excited to get to meet the new staff and get familiar with the new building,” Thompson told The Courier.

Waddell will get one more ride in the sunset, so to speak: he is being honored as Grand Marshal for the upcoming Fourth of July parade.

The parade will be held Friday, July 5 at 6:30 p.m. in downtown McArthur and is hosted by the VCHS Athletic Boosters.

sdawes@vintoncourier.com; @sydneydawes_95

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